Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Book 17 - The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Book - The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author - JK Rowling
Year - 2008
Genre - Fantasy/Short Stories
Pages - 109

I started my 'challenge' way back in 2009, the year in which I read a total of ninety-six books.  It was only the year after that I started this blog, but in that time I have now read over two-hundred and fifty books.  And I have now finally reached my first repeat!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard was one of the first books that I read back in 2009, but as I have grown to love my little blog here, I have adopted a slightly completist view, and having this book left off of the nearly complete list of JK Rowling books felt a bit wrong.  So added to the fact that I think it is a wonderful little book, it seemed a great idea to give it another read.

I think that most people will have now read the full series of the Harry Potter books, finishing off with Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsI shan't however ruin the book for those who haven't yet done so, but I don't think it spoils anything to mention that at one point in the book we are introduced to a book of fairy tales that circulates in the wizarding world.  After the publication of the final book in the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling decided to make a limited run of seven copies of this fictional book in full.  Six of these she gave to friends and colleagues who had been involved in putting together the series with her, and the seventh she auctioned off to the highest bidder for charity - and rather than the £50,000 it was estimated to make, it pulled in £1.95 million.

With Pottermania running rife, it made sense to release the book to the general public, and that is exactly what they did.  The book itself is made up of five fairy tales, each with the twist that instead of the witch or wizard being a bad guy, they instead become the hero.  The stories are much what you'd expect, with a tale crafted around a basic moral premise, but instead with wizarding morals - such as magic cannot help you to find love, or cheat death - and are a lot of fun, but it is the bits in between that really make the book.

Each story has a follow up written from the point of view of Dumbledore.  It looks at themes from the stories and the effect that they have had on the wizarding world, and gives you and expansion of the Harry Potter universe.  For those of us who are huge fans, and will hang on every new bit of information about the series, this is brilliant, and makes me want more.  There were rumours a few years back that Rowling was writing a Harry Potter Encyclopaedia containing more expanded stories such as this, but that seems to have been sadly cancelled.  I do believe there is more life in the Harry Potter books however, and I hope that at some point she will return to them and give us more like this.


Monday, 26 March 2012

Book 16 - The Hunger Games

Book - The Hunger Games
Author - Suzanne Collins
Year - 2008
Genre - Young Adult Sci Fi
Pages - 454
Series - The Hunger Games Trilogy

This is about as topical as I get I think.  Tomorrow the big screen adaptation of The Hunger Games goes out in cinemas, and as everyone and their mother seems to be reading it (I shall be lending my copy to my mother in due course), I thought I would hop on board and join in. (And just to prove that I am unable to be that topical, I started this review last week, and am just getting round to finishing it, meaning that the film has been out for a few days now).

Hot off the tail of the last book I read, I Am Number Four this book seems to be again very much geared to the idea of there being a feature film made of it.  With huge nods to the films Battle Royale and The Running Man, it seems tailor made to become a huge film.  Katniss lives in our future.  The United States is split into a capital, and twelve districts, but the districts revolt.  The capital wins out, and as such, each of the twelve districts is forced to send one boy and one girl to compete in The Hunger Games, a bloodthirsty reality TV show where all must kill the others until there is only one left.

The world is beautifully imagined, with a proper backstory and history, and politics that are easy to comprehend, yet seem complete.  The action is the most exciting I think I have read since Jurassic Park and at every page I was eager to know what would happen next.  The twists are believably explained, and the whole thing is just a thrilling experience, and I am thoroughly glad that they are receiving the attention that they deserve.

The only problem I had is that it does not end how you want it to.  This is only a disappointment until you realise that it is part of a trilogy, and it is not a bad ending, just one that simply sets you up for the next book.  Hopefully the following two will be so good that they pick up the dropped mark that this book receives for its disappointing finish.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Book 15 - I Am Number Four

Book - I Am Number Four
Author - Pitticus Lore
Year - 2010
Genre - Young Adult Science Fiction
Pages - 374
Series - Lorian Legacies
Recommended to me by Katie Minnett

Since the explosion of film franchises such as Harry Potter and Twilight (shudder), there is a bit of a feel that Hollywood is looking hard for more pieces of young adult fiction to plunder for films.  This is never a bad thing, as it means that more books get read, but often the increase in book sales is balanced against a film that isn't really all that good (Percy Jackson, I am looking at you).  Sometimes the book - no matter how amazing it is - is not quite suitable for filming.

I have never seen the film version of I Am Number Four, but I imagine that it works well.  From the very offset you get the impression that a big screen adaptation has been in mind.  The story is that in the dying moments of their planet, the Lorians send nine of their children with carers to the nearest populated planet - Earth - in order for them to grow, develop the awesome powers that their race get, and repopulate Loric by defeating the evil race of Mogadorians that have taken over the planet.  To protect them, a charm is placed on them which means that they can only be killed in order.  In thirteen years or so, the first three have been killed, and we now follow number four.

Why does is feel like a film already?  Well, as well as the big battle set pieces that crop up the whole way through, we are also introduced to our hero's supporting cast early on - Sam, the geeky, skinny guy with thick glasses; Sarah, the beautiful cheerleader, and Mark the quarterback and jock with an attitude - who could have been taken straight from any teen film released in the past thirty years.  There is very little new in any of this, and in fact the whole book is made of a mish mash of Percy Jackson, Glee, Twilight, Heroes, Transformers and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Note however, that at no point to I say this is a bad thing.  One of the great joys of teen fiction, is that even when ideas seem hackneyed, they often transfer over to make a great novel nonetheless.  And this really is that.  Some of the plot points are obvious from the start, and you rarely feel a real sense of danger or urgency, but few series such as this actually do in their first book.  Instead we are left with a thoroughly enjoyable action book, with enough backstory and history to expand into the seven part series that is hoped for.  This is a series that I will certainly be keeping an eye on and keeping very much up to date with.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Book 14 - Wyrd Sisters

Book - Wyrd Sisters
Author - Terry Pratchett
Year - 1988
Genre - Fantasy/Humour
Pages - 252
Series - Discworld

It's been a while since I read an entry in the Discworld series - October according to my blog - and so I thought it was high time I returned.  I have so many series that I am reading at the moment which are unfinished, that I thought making a little progress would be a good thing, and having been lagging somewhat with reading anything with real grit recently, I decided this would be a very suitable book to read now - they tend to be easy going and genuinely funny, but don't sacrifice a good story in order to be so.  Wyrd Sisters manages to live up to this beautifully.

One of the Witches books - somewhat unsurprisingly considering the name - this novel borrows a fair bit from the Shakespeare play Macbeth - again, somewhat unsurprisingly considering the name.  With the death of the old King of Lancre, the evil Duke takes over, but sits on the edge of madness, with his power hungry wife looming over him.  We also follow a band of actors, who fill in all of the missing stagecraft jokes that the setting lends itself to.

As a theatre person myself, I found this all pretty amusing, and is one of the Discworld books that I have warmed to best.  It is certainly not a criticism to suggest that many of Pratchett's books feel very similar, and this is because he has found a genre and perfected it incredibly quickly.  This means that he can keep releasing books that are similar in form, and people love them, just as I loved this one.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Book 13 - Floodland

Book - Floodland
Author - Marcus Sedgwick
Year - 2000
Genre - Young Adult/Dystopian
Pages - 128

Working in a primary school means that I hear a lot of books read to me.  Primarily these are Oxford Learning Tree books (no, don't worry, I am not about to start blogging about the adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper, no matter how exciting they may be), but when it comes to class books, the nature of my job, switching between classes daily, means that I never get a chance to hear the whole book.  This sort of explains why I often read books by authors such as Michael Morpurgo, who probably don't feature in a lot of other adults' reading lists - I just need to find out what happened when I wasn't there!

Well recently I have had some prolonged exposure to one particular class, and as such have been following their class book, Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick.  Ever eager, and in fear that I would move class before it was finished, today I read on and finished the thing.

It follows the story of Zoe, a girl who is accidentally abandoned by her parents when they make their desperate escape from Norwich.  Why so desperate?  Well, Floodland is set in a world where global warming has reached its peak and most of the United Kingdom is flooded, making Norwich an island.  With supplies getting low, Zoe manages to find a boat, and makes her escape to try and find her parents.

My first thought was that it is exactly the kind of book that I would have loved when I was a kid.  There is a slight fantasy element, and it feels truly like a proper adult book, but with language and content that a child would understand.  On her journey, Zoe meets the feral remains of society clambering for survival on the scraps of land - or in this case, the highground of Ely Cathedral - that remain, and seem to be primarily led by children.  There are shades of Lord of the Flies to it, and it is pretty exciting - if unusually dark - for a children's book.

Even as an adult I still found it enjoyable, and whilst my tastes have grown since I was at school to expect a thicker and deeper plot that I was given here, I think that there is still room in anyone's reading for the highly underrated world of young adult books, which are at heart, fun and enjoyable books designed to make reading fun, whilst still having some proper story behind them.